There are many lenses through which one can examine the Kenyan crisis. For the United States, for instance, Kenya has been what the WSJ notes is a key regional ally on counter-terrorism. Instability in Kenya thus has repercussions for the entire international community. For the African continent, the crisis brings much deeper social, economic and developmental implications. For the Chinese, too, Kenya's democratic crisis hits at the heart of Beijing's strategic interests.
Between 2004-2007 Kenya and China signed 12 bilateral accords covering a variety of fields including the economy, technology, energy, tourism, health, aviation, the press, archeology and education - many of which may be jeopardized in the face of Kenya's electoral conflict. Furthermore, the Chinese view Kenya in terms of its strategic positioning and maintain it is the best-placed entry point into Eastern and Central Africa.
Yet if Kenya is indeed as central to Chinese interests as they maintain, then at least I can't help but wonder: where are they? In some respects, the conflict in Kenya is an opportunity for Beijing to rectify its international image vis-a-vis its activity in Darfur and present itself as a defender of human rights and a source of international aid. In November 2007 China offered to help Kenya modernize its military, noting that the support would not only improve the military's ability to ensure security along the borders but also enhance Kenya's role in peace-keeping activities in Africa and beyond. It would seem that such capabilities are necessary now more than ever.
This is not to suggest that the Chinese assume a central role in the conflict; quite the opposite. What I'm suggesting is that China has an opportunity to assist a floundering state - one which has been its diplomatic ally for over 40 years. While Beijing should stay out of Kenya's politics, it can - and should - assist the country's citizens as much as it can.